We're kicking off 2021 by highlighting hotels that have opened under the shadow of a global pandemic. They did it against all odds (or to stick to long-held schedules), with full faith and fortitude. We applaud them and wish them all a long and healthy future, or at least one that's better than their inevitably rocky start. Also on this list is one that opened in 2019 but never got a fair shake once Covid reared its ugly head.
You may notice that we are calling attention to the special initiatives, if any, that the hotels are doing around sustainability, inclusivity, and community-building. If we've learned anything this year, it's that we all need to be more accountable for and thoughtful about our behavior. To that end, we commit to being more responsible in our reporting, with the dual goals of helping us all make better travel decisions and to support the companies that do what they can to have a positive impact on the world.
Don't miss all our picks for the World's Best New Hotels in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. In the United States, we've broken down our favorite new hotels by region: the Northeast, the South, and the West.
Where: Canyon Point, Utah
Why We're Excited: Amangiri, possibly the most outrageous resort in the most outrageously wild landscape in the country, set up ten luxurious tented pavilions in super close proximity to five national parks and the Navajo Nation Reservation. No expense or detail was spared by Aman or Mother Nature.
Feel-Good Factor: The resort works closely with the Navajo Nation, mostly in the form of fundraising initiatives and creating meaningful community connections with guests.
Where: Healdsburg, California
Why We're Excited: Sonoma's luxury hotel game got a serious lift with this opening. Let's start with the location: just ten minutes from charming downtown Healdsburg and close to notable area wineries. And the setting: 130 bungalow-style rooms and suites made with organic elements like stone and wood have with spacious outdoor patios and showers overlook vineyard and mountains and are nestled on 258 acres of hills and groves. Amenities include three in-house restaurants specializing in local ingredients and a nature-inspired spa perched above vines. (The restaurants and spa are currently closed in compliance with California Covid regulations.)
Feel-Good Factor: The Tesla solar panels covering the parking area will power just over 20 percent of hotel operations. Team Montage built the hotel without moving a single one of the 22,000 oak trees on the property and have added one and a half acres of hazelnut trees, in the hopes they will yield truffles one day.
Where: Los Angeles, California
Why We're Excited: While it technically opened in 2019, Sant Monica Proper was forced to close during Covid, so we're including it here — also because we totally loved it. West Coast design icon Kelly Wearstler did the interiors, which either recall a sophisticated cabana on the beach or a palatial tent in the Moroccan desert. It’s hard to tell: Wearstler’s influences (and furnishings) come from all around the world. On paper, it’s all a bit flashy: The star designer, the star chefs, the occasional stars (Hollywood, internet, or otherwise) that walk through the doors. But in person, the hotel is welcoming, easy-going, almost Zen-inducing. It’s a great place to kick back and unwind without having to sacrifice just about anything.
Read More on Fathom: Inside Santa Monica's Show-Stopping New Hotel
Where: Los Angeles, California
Why We're Excited: Because launching one new hotel brand wasn't enough for Proper Hospitality co-founders Brian De Lowe and Brad Korzen, last summer they introduced their first (of many on the horizon) Hotel June, whose name is meant to capture that school's-out-summer's-here SoCal vibe. The minimalist rooms have white oak platform beds and city or coastal views. (The beach is a five-minute walk away.) The two in-house restaurants, the bi-level outdoor Caravan Swim Club and Scenic Route, feature regional cuisines from Santa Barbara to Baja California, accompanied by similarly local wines, beers, and spirits. The hotel's location between LAX and Marina del Rey make Venice and Santa Monica especially accessible, while the low rates make it easy to settle in for a while.
Feel Good Factor: A new artist-in-residence program formed in partnership with the LA-based digital gallery Tappan Collective, gives one of Tappan's emerging global artists the chance to create new work that evokes that California lifestyle.
Where: Cambria, California.
Why We're Excited: Carve out your own Covid-free bubble on a remote stretch of Moonstone Beach, about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from LA or San Francisco. The 25-room hotel has a laid-back, grown-up Scandi surf feel: terrazzo countertops, leather, rattan, vintage textiles, local artwork. Look out at the ocean while you turn on the gas fireplace, soak in the outdoor tub, or nosh on life-affirming snacks from the Erewhon-stocked mini bar. Then hit the beach to wander the tide pools, shop the general store for California-made souvenirs, and savor a well-made cocktail from the only hotel in the area with a full liquor license.
Where: Kona-Kohala Coast, Hawaii Big Island
Why We're Excited: The first Auberge Resort Collection entry in Hawaii is a $200-million-dollar renovation of a longstanding Big Island institution, the Mauna Lani. The land on the western-facing stretch of Pacific was once occupied by Kalahuipua'a Kings, who worshiped the central energy vortex created from the proximity to Hawaii's five major volcanoes and ancient petroglyphs. Today the spiritual and rejuvenating energy of the property is embedded within the wide-open natural sanctuaries, royal fish ponds, expansive beachfront, open-air restaurants, and private bungalows.
Feel-Good Factor: Spend time with the on-site kahu hānai, traditional knowledge keeper who teaches the history and mythology of the ancient Kalahuipua'a fishponds on the property and shares legends of Hawaiian royalty. Kiddos will love Pii Laeha, the local wildlife expert who oversees the turtle conversation program at the hotel in partnership with Oahu's marine and wildlife center, caring for captive-reared hatchlings in the hotel's saltwater ponds before releasing them into the big blue.
Where: Lāna'i, Hawaii
Why We're Excited: It's rare to hear much about the smallest publicly accessible inhabited island in the Hawaiian chain, so this is big news. Tech pioneer Larry Ellison (who owns most of the island's land), along with scientist Dr. David Agus, distilled health data and research into a three-pronged program — move, nourish, rest — for guests interested in pursuing enhanced well-being — preferably in the lap of tropical luxury. Spa treatments happen in private hale (Hawaiian for "home") and amenities include infrared saunas, Japanese-style Ofuro, and meals made from ingredients gathered at the organic farm and prepared by Sensei by Nobu.
Feel-Good Factor: Sensei Farms are hydroponic, thus reducing water consumption and space, and Tesla solar energy is used to power the greenhouses. The lofty goal is to develop research and best practices to help feed the planet in decades to come.
Where: Solvang, California
Why We're Excited: Nomada Hotel Group specializes in breathing new life into Central California spaces, from bars to motels. We love what they did at Skyview Los Alamos, and think they did a bang-up job with the redo of the old Meadowlark hotel in Santa Barbara wine country. The eighteen guest rooms are outfitted with club chairs, hand-painted tiles, and hammocks on private patios. The rest of the two-acre property is filled with trees, gardens, a pool, and an outdoor living space. The culinary program relies heavily on favorite local bakeries and BBQs.
Feel-Good Factor: Those hammocks were made by women in the remote village of Urubicha in the Bolivian Amazon. And, yes, you can buy one to bring home.
Where: Hope Valley, Alpine County, California
Why We're Excited: The choose-your-own-adventure all-season resort located 25 minutes by car from South Lake Tahoe has 30 unique cabins, yurts, and trailers on a 165-acre property tucked away in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Nature takes the lead on the day's agenda, which could include mountain biking, winter snowshoeing, laying in a hammock creekside, alpine forest bathing, hot-spring soaking, and stargazing with hot cocoa by the fire.
Feel-Good Factor: Each cabin features work from local craftsmen who focus on sustainable woodworking and materials.
Rates from $200 for cabins, yurts, and trailers; $45 per night for RVs and tents.
Where: Healdsburg, California
Why We're Excited: The latest glampground to set up shop along the California wine trail has 30 affordable, low-key, and family- and pet-friendly oversized safari-style canvas tents outfitted with hammocks, private patios, mattresses, and the essential glamping classifer, electricity. Alexander Valley and Medlock Ames vineyards are a short bike ride away (rentals are available), and picnic provisions can be procured at the on-site country store.
Feel-Good Factor: Wildhaven encourages guests to adhere to the 7 principles of Leave No Trace to help minimize human impact on Mother Earth.
Where: Scottsdale, Arizona
Why We're Excited: Rising from the desert foothills of the Sonora desert, Adero is Scottsdale's only resort certified as a Dark Sky Zone, which means it has not only panoramic but more importantly unpolluted views of Arizona's vibrant night sky. The astral theme plays out with celestial suites, al fresco dining, and galaxy telescope tours guided by the hotel’s own Star Dudes.
Feel-Good Factor: In partnership with local non-profit Sonoran Trail Blazers, the resort maintains a one-mile sustainability hiking trail to explore the vibrant. abundant, indigenous flora and fauna on the property.
Where: Woodside, California
Why We're Excited: It's that thing that California (and Canyon Ranch, actually) does so well — provide grand and immersive nature and wellness right outside the city. In this case, it's a backdrop of stately redwoods just south of San Francisco where daily wellness programming, treehouse rooms, a soothing color palette, and root-to-stem cooking provide a real retreat from the day-to- day.
Feel-Good Factor: Green groundskeeping and laundry services, regenerative farming support, plus proactive energy efficient solutions and waste reduction efforts lessen the resort's environmental impact.
Where: Raton, New Mexico
Why We're Excited: The latest guest house in the Vermejo compound has ten grand rooms, sitting areas, fireplaces, stone walls, and is nestled within the million acres of wilderness comprising Ted Turner Reserve Properties.
Feel-Good Factor: Conservation is at the core of the company, which aims to be in deep and lasting harmony with its native ecosystems. This is the land of the last wild herds of bison, which are actively protected and monitored, among other species on the verge of extinction.